US troops were injured in Iran’s Jan. 8 attack; Army cancels $45B vehicle competition; Riyadh gives US $0.5B for ops; Navy adding drone controllers to carriers; And a bit more.

Eleven American troops were wounded in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad air base, U.S. defense and military officials confirmed to Defense One’s Kevin Baron on Thursday. “This week, they were medically evacuated to U.S. military hospitals in Kuwait and Landstuhl, Germany, to be treated for traumatic brain injury and to undergo further evaluation,” Baron reports.

“While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Capt. Bill Urban, spox at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. said in a statement emailed to reporters after Baron’s report Thursday evening. “As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate, are transported to a higher level of care.”

Flashback: “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime,” President Trump told the country in a live address on Jan. 8. 

Today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “led Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years,” AP reports. Khamenei used the rare occasion to call out “American clowns” who want to stick a “poisoned dagger” into the backs of Iranians. 

He also renewed his call for America to withdraw its forces from the Middle East, and said the Revolutionary Guard Corps “protects oppressed nations across the region” as “fighters without borders.” More from Reuters, here.


From Defense One

Eleven US Troops Were Injured in Jan. 8 Iran Missile Strike // Kevin Baron: The troops were medevaced this week to Germany and Kuwait to be treated for traumatic brain injury after experiencing concussion symptoms.

US Army Cancels $45B Armored Vehicle Contest That Drew One Bid / Marcus Weisgerber: The service now plans to reboot its effort to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, but with different bidding parameters.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: USN: send money; Changes coming to F-35 logistics; NG’s new logo; and more…

The US Space Force Is Not a Joke // Marina Koren, The Atlantic: It’s not all President Trump promised, but it exists now.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1917, the U.S. bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.  


The Taliban say they’re open to a 10-day ceasefire in Afghanistan, provided the U.S. agrees to the deal, Reuters reports from Kabul and Peshawar. Little else is known just yet about the possible deal; and “A U.S. State Department spokeswoman declined to comment and the Pentagon referred queries to the State Department.” Read on, here

Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar visited Greece today, two days before a peace conference in Berlin, AP reports from Athens. It’s unclear precisely what Haftar is looking to achieve in Greece; but it’s worth noting that “In November, Turkey and the Libyan government in Tripoli [Haftar’s ostensible enemy] signed a controversial maritime deal delineating a boundary between the two countries in the Mediterranean.” 
That maritime deal “would give Turkey and Libya access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean despite the objections of Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically. All three countries have blasted the deal as being contrary to international law.”
Also attending talks in Berlin on Sunday: Haftar’s foe, Fayez al-Serraj, as well as the “leaders of Russia, Turkey, Egypt” and other nations that are not specified in a Reuters report this morning.  
In case you’d lost track, “Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Sudanese and Chadian fighters, and most recently Russian mercenaries. France has also given some support,” Reuters writes. “On the other side, Turkey has rushed to Serraj’s rescue by sending troops to balance out recent gains by Russian snipers. Hundreds of pro-Turkey fighters from Syria’s war have also been deployed.” 
One goal of the Berlin talks: To get Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement referenced in a “six-page draft communique seen by Reuters.” A bit more, here.
Related: There’s now bipartisan U.S. congressional pushback against SecDef Esper’s plan (NYTs) to drawdown American forces from Africa, Defense News reported Thursday. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., and ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, wrote a letter to Esper warning, “A decrease in our investment now may result in the need for the United States to reinvest at many more times the cost down the road.”
This could be an early indication of “the political capital Esper may have to spend in order to push through a series of ambitious reform efforts in the coming months. The critics include Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del.” Read on, here.

Don’t miss our latest Defense One Radio podcast all about Russian private military contractors like Wagner and why they’ve expanded to countries all across Africa. Listen (or read the transcript) here.

Want to understand much of American foreign policy over the past decade? Well before Trump took office, Republicans leaned toward a “primacy/dominate” stance in international affairs, while Democrats leaned toward a “cooperate/share” model, University of Chicago Professor Paul Poast explained in a Twitter thread Thursday. Since Trump took office, that dominate-vs.-cooperate disparity has grown. 
One curious consideration: Both parties could claim to be supporting a view of America as an “exceptional” nation: Republicans in that Americans “must embrace the US ability to dominate others”; and Democrats in that Americans “should embrace the US as ‘Indispensable’ for ensuring international cooperation,” Poast writes. 
The bottom line: There is a “key difference” between how Republicans and Democrats view what it means for the U.S. to engage the world. And “that difference, in turn, goes a long way towards explaining US foreign policy.” More reading on this topic here and here.

European governments accused Iran of violating the nuke deal after Trump threatened them if they didn’t, the Washington Post reports and the German defense minister has since confirmed. The threat of a 25% tariff on European automobiles reportedly shocked British, French, and German officials, who had been leaning toward the move anyway, the Post says.
Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations: “The tariff threat is a mafia-like tactic, and it’s not how relations between allies typically work.” Read on, here.

How POTUS45 set the tone with his generals. New details from a meeting inside the Pentagon on July 20, 2017, reveal “the chilling effect Trump’s comments and hostility had on the nation’s military and national security leadership” that day and in the months since, according to the Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker.
Among the things Trump told former SecDef Jim Mattis and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford in that meeting:

  • “We should make [allies] pay for [hosting] our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
  • “You’re all losers,” he told them. And about Afghanistan, he said, “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
  • “Where is the f—-ing oil?” Trump said of U.S. troops in the Middle East.
  • “I wouldn’t go to war with you people… You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.” There’s lots more.

Feel free to read on, whether or not any of this surprises you about “Teflon Don,” here. Or wait for the book that all this is a part of, called, “A Very Stable Genius,” which will be published Tuesday. 

Saudi Arabia paid the U.S. about $500 million toward the cost of supporting troops deployed there, a Pentagon spokeswoman told CNN Thursday. The payment was made in December, and more may be on the way.
Said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich: “Consistent with the President’s guidance to increase partner burden-sharing, the Department of Defense has engaged Saudi Arabia on sharing the cost of these deployments, which support regional security and dissuade hostility and aggression. The Saudi government has agreed to help underwrite the cost of these activities and has made the first contribution…Discussions are ongoing to formalize a mechanism for future contributions that offset the cost of these deployments.”
Recall that last week Trump told Fox that Riyadh had “deposited $1 billion in the bank.” Asked about it earlier this week, Pentagon officials could only say that negotiations were ongoing.
For the record: This is the first time this has happened since the Gulf War, CNN writes. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Gulf states paid $36 billion towards the costs of liberating Kuwait in 1991.
BTW: “France has deployed a radar system on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia to beef up its ally’s defenses,” Reuters reports today in a shorty

SecDef Esper and SecState Pompeo argue South Korea needs to pay up. “Seoul can and should contribute more to its own national defense,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper and State Secretary Mike Pompeo write in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
An alternate POV: “There is zero negotiating value to the Secretaries of State and Defense writing in The WSJ that South Korea should pay more for defense,” tweeted former State Department official Mintaro Oba. “In fact, it harms the alliance and publicly raises the stakes so much it’s harder to get to an agreeable compromise.”

Control centers for U.S. drones are being built on Navy carriers, Capt. Chuck Ehnes, the Navy’s program manager for in-service aircraft carriers told the crowd at the Surface Navy Association on Thursday. According to SeaPower Magazine, “Unmanned Aviation Warfare Centers (UAWCs) are being installed to operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial tanker and any follow-on UAVs the Navy plans to operate from its aircraft carriers.” Tiny bit more, here

How do you drive away a pesky Chinese navy without escalating tensions? Indonesia’s recent actions present a fresh case study “in pushing back against Beijing’s broad South China Sea claims,” the Wall Street Journal reported this morning from Jakarta.
The situation: “In late December, several Chinese coast guard ships escorted more than three dozen Chinese fishing boats into the waters off Indonesia’s Natuna Islands… China doesn’t claim Indonesia’s Natuna Islands, near which the recent flare-up occurred, as its own, but says it has historical rights over a part of the surrounding waters that falls within an ill-defined ‘nine-dash’ line Beijing has used to demarcate its claims.”
The latest developments played out last week when, “during the standoff, Indonesian President Joko Widodo took a trip [to] the islands, where he met with local fishermen. At sea, the ships continued to crisscross and Indonesia’s military flew F-16s overhead.” By the end of the week, on Saturday, “the Chinese ships began moving northward, away from the area. The Indonesian navy shadowed them all the way out.” Continue reading, here.
Related: On Thursday, the BBC asked, “Why are Chinese fishermen finding so many ‘submarine spies’?” In that story, you’ll learn China is offering up to $72,000 for those who capture “spy drones.” That kind of money amounts to “around 17 times the average disposable income in China.”

Now for something completely different: “Blankets, canned tuna and faith in God — how fleeing Venezuelans survive.” The LA Times sent a reporter and a photographer on an incredible trip to the border of Colombia. The pictures and stories they brought back are worth a click this weekend, here.

And finally today: welcome, xenobots. Researchers at the University of Vermont and Tufts University programmed frog stem cells to develop into tiny blob-like organic robots that move with muscles and heal if damaged. These “xenobots” — named for the species of frog that provided their cells — are “neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism,” Joshua Bongard, one of the lead researchers at the University of Vermont, told CNN, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone; and we’ll see you again on Monday!

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